Pridi Banomyong ( th|ปรีดี พนมยงค์, , ; 11 May 1900 – 2 May 1983), also known by his noble title Luang Praditmanutham ( th|หลวงประดิษฐ์มนูธรรม) was a Thai
politician and professor
As a Thai Regent
, prime minister
and senior statesman
, he also held multiple ministerial posts. He was a leader of the civilian wing of Khana Ratsadon
, founder of University of Moral and Political Sciences
and the Bank of Thailand
Born to a poor family of farmers in Ayutthaya Province, he nonetheless received a good education, becoming one of the nation's youngest barristers in 1919, at the age of nineteen. In 1920, he won scholarship to study in France, where he graduated from University of Caen
with a master's degree, and completed his doctorate from University of Paris
in 1927. In the same year, he co-founded Khana Ratsadon with like-minded Siamese overseas students. After returning to Thailand, still called Siam at the time, he worked as a judge, judicial secretariat, and professor. In the aftermath of 1932 Siamese Revolution
, he played an important role in drafting two of the country's first constitutions, proposing a socialist economic plan. His plan was ill received, and Pridi went into a period of self-exile. On his return, he took many ministerial posts in Khana Ratsadon
's governments. His significant contributions include modernizing Thai legal codes, laying the foundation for Thailand's local government system, negotiating the cancellation of unequal treaties
with the West, and tax reform.
Pridi diverged from Thai politician Plaek Phibunsongkhram
after Plaek's apparent tendencies for dictatorship, and Pridi made a regent during 1941 to 1945, a powerless post at the time. Shortly thereafter, he became leader of the domestic Free Thai Movement
during World War II. His move to legitimate Plaek's declaration of war against the Allies proved fruitful and after the war, and the King thought of him as a senior statesman.
Pridi became Prime Minister for a brief period in 1946. His political opponents painted him as the mastermind behind the assassination of King Ananda Mahidol
, and a coup in 1947 cost him his political power. An attempt to stage a counter-coup in 1949 failed and Pridi continued to live in exile since. He died in Paris, France in 1983, and his ashes were brought back to Thailand in 1986.
His image ranged from that of an anti-monarchist democrat to a republican. The branding of Pridi as a communist and a mastermind of King Ananda's death has since been regarded as politically motivated, which his opponents continued to use even after his death. However, Pridi won every libel
lawsuit in Thailand filed against those who promoted such views. He became a symbol of resistance against military dictatorships, as well as a symbol of liberalism, and Thammasat University. The centenary of his birth was celebrated by UNESCO
Pridi wrote that his great-great-great grandfather, Heng, was a native of Etang Village in the Chenghai County
of Guangdong Province
, southern China, who came to Siam
during the reign of Boromaracha V
(r. 17581767), leaving behind his wife, who was pregnant with their son, Seng. Heng lived in Siam among the Chinese relatives of King Taksin
, who recruited some of the local Chinese, including Heng, to fight against the Burmese invaders in 1767. Heng died in the service of the half-Chinese king. Taksin compensated Heng's family, after they sent a letter inquiring about him.
Seng chose to live his life in China as a rice farmer.
However, Seng's son, Tan Nai Kok (陳盛于/陈盛于; Chen Chengyu; Tan Sêng-u),
emigrated to Siam in 1814, during the reign of King Rama II
. Nai Kok settled in Ayutthaya
and made his living by selling Chinese and Thai sweets; it is said he had made innovations by combining Chinese
and Thai culinary
skills. A devout Buddhist
, Nai Kok married a Thai woman named Pin.
Pin's sister, Boonma, would become an ancestor of Pridi's wife Poonsuk.
Their son, Nai Koet, married Khum, daughter of a wealthy Chinese entrepreneur
. When Nai Koet died, his wife directed that his remains were to be cremated
and interred at the shrine at Phanomyong Hill, which is the origin of their Thai surname.
Their son, Nai Siang, who became a wealthy rice merchant, married Lukchan; they were the parents of Pridi.
Early life and education
Pridi Phanomyong was born in Ayutthaya Province
, the second of five children. He had two half-siblings from his father's minor wife. In 1915, following a royal decree issued by King Vajiravudh
, Pridi and his family dropped "Nai" from their names.
After having graduated with an LLB
from Thai Royal College of Law
, he received a government scholarship to study law
and political economy at Sciences Po
. He earned a PhD
in 1927 and returned to Siam
that year to work for the Ministry of Justice. He quickly rose in rank, and was granted the royal title Luang
Praditmanutham ( th|หลวงประดิษฐ์มนูธรรม). He also began assembling a group of fifty civil servants who wanted to replace the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy
On 24 June 1932, ''Khana Ratsadon'', the tiny People's Party
, with Pridi as the leader of the civilian faction, carried out a lightning coup that abruptly ended 150 years of absolute monarchy under the Chakri Dynasty
In 1933, accused of being a communist, Pridi went into exile when his radical economic plans, It's common called "White-cover book" , which called for the nationalisation
of land, public employment, and social security, were rejected by royalists and some ex-members of Khana Ratsadon, who shut down parliament and the judiciary.
It is noted, however, that many ideas he proposed were finally came into existence, such as the national bank and National Economic Council, and the conservatives only agreed to Pridi in founding national lottery.
Pridi returned to Thailand in 1934 to found Thammasat University
as an open university, before assuming the posts of Minister of the Interior that year, Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1935, and Minister of Finance in 1938.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1936 to 1937, Pridi signed treaties revoking the extraterritorial rights
of 12 countries. With these treaties, Thailand was able to regain independence with regard to legal jurisdiction
for the first time since unequal treaties
were signed under duress during the reign of King Rama IV
Although he had been friends with Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram
during the early days of the People's Party, the two fell out in subsequent years. Pridi was anti-Japanese
as well as left-leaning. He opposed many of Phibun's militaristic policies which tended to be more conciliatory toward the Japanese. The antipathy between the two characters would define how Thailand fared in World War II when Japan was on the march in Asia.
Free Thai movement
On 8 December 1941, Imperial Japan
launched attacks on Southeast Asia
and the Allied
possessions in the region, opening the Pacific War
. This included amphibious landings
in Thailand and an invasion across the border from French Indochina
. After initially resisting, the Thai government reluctantly agreed to let the Japanese pass through the country and use its military bases to strike other Allied possessions in the region, culminating in the Battle of Malaya
When Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram
issued a declaration of war
and the United States
in January 1942, Pridi refused to sign it, as he served as the Regent
for the young monarch, who was studying in Switzerland
. In this capacity, Pridi built the anti-Japanese underground, the Free Thai Movement ("Seri Thai") network, in Thailand. Code named "Ruth", he established contact with the Allies and Thai resistance organisations in Britain and the United States
. As the war progressed and the fortunes of the Japanese declined, public dissatisfaction grew and Phibun was forced to resign as prime minister in 1944.
, a liberal lawyer and member of Seri Thai
, was chosen to be prime minister due to "his ability to dissemble with the Japanese" to shield the growing Seri Thai movement while at the same time improving superficial relations with the Japanese occupiers.
When Japan's surrender ended the war, the Seri Thai-dominated government immediately acted to "restore the pre-war status quo". As regent, Pridi termed "the declaration of war illegal and null, and void" as improperly made, and repudiated all agreements made with Japan by Phibun.
When Lord Louis Mountbatten
, the Supreme Commander, Southeast Asia, visited Bangkok
in late-1945, he recorded a tribute to Pridi in which he said that there had existed a unique situation wherein "the Supreme Allied Commander was exchanging vital military plans with the Head of a State technically at war with us".
Pridi retired from the regency when King Ananda Mahidol
returned in December 1945. He was formally named a Senior Statesman (''Ratthaburut Awuso''), and served as an advisor to the post-war, civilian governments of Thawi Bunyaket
and Seni Pramoj
In March 1946, Khuang Aphaiwong
, who had been elected prime minister in January, resigned. Pridi assumed the position in an attempt to stabilize the political situation, which was spiralling out of control. It was during the first months of the Pridi government that the war crimes trial of Phibun was dismissed on a legal technicality.
On the morning of 9 June 1946, the young king was found dead in his bed in the Baromphiman Mansion in the Grand Palace
, dead from a gunshot wound to his head. In October 1946, a commission ruled that the King's death could not have been accidental, but that neither suicide nor murder was satisfactorily proved. Sulak Sivaraksa
, a prominent conservative and monarchist, wrote that Pridi's role in the event was he protected responsible royals, and prevented the arrest of a person who destroyed the evidence.
เรื่องปรีดี พนมยงค์ ตามทัศนะ ส.ศิวรักษ์
After a general election, Pridi resigned as prime minister, resumed his role of senior statesman, and left on a world tour, visiting Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek
and US President Harry S. Truman
along the way.
On 8 November 1947, army troops seized various government installations in Bangkok. The coup, led by Lieutenant General Phin Choonhavan
and Colonel Kat Katsongkhram, ousted Thamrong
's government. It marked the return to power of Phibun. At the same time, armoured cars arrived in front of Pridi's riverside residence. When the troops entered they found that Pridi had departed. Pridi spent a week hiding with the Royal Thai Navy at Admiral Sindhu Songkhramchai's headquarters. On 20 November, he was spirited to Singapore
by British and US agents.
Phibun arrested King Ananda's secretary, Senator Chaleo Patoomros, and two of his pages under charges of conspiracy to kill the king. Rumours were spread that Pridi was part of a conspiracy involved in the alleged regicide
, and that he had plans to turn Thailand into a republic. After a farcical trial, during which the entire defence team resigned and two members of a subsequent team were arrested under charges of treason, the judges ruled that none of the accused could have fired the fatal shot (see footnotes). However, it did convict a royal page, Chit Singhaseni, of being a party to the crime. Chit appealed his conviction. The appeals court later dismissed Chit's appeal and, undeterred by the legal doctrine of double jeopardy
, found another page, But Pathamasarin, also guilty. The supreme court upheld the convictions, convicting Chaleo as well. All three were executed several years later.
Biographer William Stevenson has said that King Bhumibol Adulyadej
did not believe that Pridi was involved in his brother's death.
Pridi supported the Vietnamese independence movement of Ho Chi Minh
. As the cold war
infected the post-war arena of Southeast Asia
, Thailand became a focus of the US and the USSR. In 1949, when China turned communist, the Viet Minh
fought the anti-French war. The US doubted that Pridi would support the communist movement in the region, but his policy was controversial, leading to the coup which ousted him from power by his former ally, the wartime leader Plaek Phibunsongkhram
Pridi secretly returned in 1949 in order to stage a coup d'état against Phibun's dictatorship. When it failed, Pridi left for China, never to return to Thailand. In 1970 he travelled to France
, where he spent the remainder of his life. Pridi died on 2 May 1983, at his home in the suburbs of Paris
Pridi remains a controversial figure in Thai modern history. As one of the leaders of the 1932 pro-democracy coup, he has been viewed in many ways. The first declaration of the "revolution," which harshly attacked the king and his government, was written by Pridi himself. Nevertheless, Pridi held the position of regent when Rama VIII
ascended to the throne.
During the period of military rule, Pridi was portrayed as a communist owing to the fact that several of his books and articles showed sympathy for Marxist, socialist, and communist ideologies.
With obvious conflict between Pridi and the King Rama VIII, the young king's tragic death came to be blamed on Pridi. Pridi was accused of being the leader of a plot to assassinate the popular young monarch. This culminated in the military coup in 1947.
In his later years Seni Pramoj
promoted the idea that he had saved Thailand from post-war British colonial rule that Pridi had been willing to accept. Nigel Brailey treats the Free Thai movement as largely a sham and casts doubt on Pridi's part, arguing "it appears questionable whether Pridi committed himself personally to the Allied cause much prior to August 1942, if even then," suggesting that "his eventual anti-Japanese stance was a consequence primarily of his hostility to Phibun."
Pridi wanted to remove Phibun from power, and the war offered an opportunity to do so. However, Pridi recognised well before the war that Thailand's alignment with the Axis powers would work to Phibun's advantage and enable him to strengthen his dictatorship
. Even the Japanese recognised Pridi's hostility, which is why he was forced out of the cabinet in December 1941. It was the reason every knowledgeable person on the Allied side, from Seni Pramoj and Prince Suphasawat, a chief organiser of the movement in Great Britain, to former British ambassador Josiah Crosby, anticipated that Pridi would emerge as the head of a domestic resistance movement.
One-time conservative monarchist Sulak Sivaraksa
has emerged as one of Pridi's most ardent champions. A prolific critic of the Thai status quo, Sulak, in addition to praising the achievements of the Free Thai in saving Thailand's sovereignty, has criticised Seni and his Democrat Party for alleged complicity in the military's return to power in 1947.
Sulak led efforts to rehabilitate Pridi which achieved significant results. Four Bangkok streets now are named for Pridi: three as Pridi Banomyong Road and one called Praditmanutham (his royally-granted title) Road. His birthday, 11 May, is now celebrated as Pridi Banomyong Day. In 1997 the Thai government dedicated a park in eastern Bangkok to the Free Thai resistance movement. On 16 August 2003, a library-museum, built as a replica of Pridi's wartime residence, opened at the park.
On 30 October 1999 UNESCO
included the centenary of Pridi Phanomyong's birth in its recognition of anniversaries of great personalities and historic events as tribute to his ideals and integrity.
There are two Pridi Banomyong Memorials, one in Pridi's hometown, the other on the campus of Thammasat University, which he founded. Thammasat is home to the Pridi Banomyong Library and the Pridi Banomyong International College. The law faculty at Dhurakij Pundit University
is called the Pridi Banomyong Faculty of Law. The Pridi (''Chloropsis aurifrons pridii''), a species of leafbird
, and Pridi Banomyong Institute, a non-profit academic organisation, are named in his honour. The Pridi Banomyong Institute holds an annual Pridi Banomyong Lecture, initially on Pridi Banomyong Day, but moved in recent years to 24 June, in honour of his role in the 1932 coup.
Honours and awards
* Professor of Thammasat University
Civil Service of Siam rank
* Chief of Ministry of Justice
of Siam ( th|อํามาตย์ตรี)
* Luang Praditmanutham of Ministry of Justice
of Siam ( th|หลวงประดิษฐ์มนูธรรม) (1928-1941)
Pridi received the following royal decorations in the Honours System
* 1933 -
Safeguarding the Constitution Medal
[Timeline of the life of Pridi Phanomyong](_blank)
Retrieved on 19 November 2008.
* 1937 - Knight Grand Cordon (Special Class) of The Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand
* 1938 - King Rama VIII
Royal Cypher Medal
* 1939 - Dushdi Mala Medal for Services to the Nation
* 1941 - Knight Grand Cordon (Special Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant
* 1945 -
Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of The Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao
[''The Royal Gazette'', Vol. 62 No. 70, Page 1900.](_blank)
11 December, B.E. 2488 (C.E. 1945). Retrieved on 19 November 2008.
* 1945 -
Knight of The Ancient and Auspicious Order of the Nine Gems
* Order of the Rising Sun
, 1st Class (Japan)
Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur
Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
* Medal of Freedom
with Gold Palm (United States of America)
Commander Grand Cross of the Order of Vasa
Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle
Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
Grand Collar of the Order of Sikatuna
Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog
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